Victims Speak on New Victims Law

News from Colombia | on: Monday, 13 June 2011

The Colombian National Movement of Victims (MOVICE) has indicated that despite widespread optimism in the media, and even among some victims, regarding President Santos’ flagship Land and Victims Law, the law contains a series of serious flaws that make it far from a real solution to the problem of reparation and justice for the many thousands of victims of violence in Colombia.

MOVICE points out that the law was developed without the consultation or participation of the victims themselves. MOVICE had initially proposed that controversial points be discussed in public hearings, but this was rejected out of hand. Since many of the victims are indigenous or afro-colombians, this lack of consultation is in violation of ILO 169 which states that indigenous and afro-colombian communities have the right to “free, prior and informed participation in policy and development processes that affect them”, something which has since been confirmed many times by rulings of the Colombian constitutional court.

The law also places arbitrary limits on those categorised as victims, in effect dividing victims between those eligible for some recompense and those ineligible. The way the law stands, thousands of victims of abuses and displacement from the early 1980s and throughout the 1970s are not considered victims. Furthermore, victims of current human rights abuses and displacement will now have to prove that these were not the result of common crime. MOVICE also points out that the law does not compensate victims for losses of any property other than land.

The law in effect legalises the forced displacement that occurred prior to the 1st January 1991. According to MOVICE this is due to the government’s drive to make agro-business and mining the two ‘engines’ of the economy. The law legitimises displacement where the displacement is judged to be in the economic interest, as in the case of many palm oil plantations. In many cases the displacement occurred as a result of cooperation between those who now hold the land and the paramilitaries. In these cases victims will have their claim to the land formally recognised but without sanctioning their return.

MOVICE also criticises the provision of health and education to victims as reparation. Most of the victims are poor and the Colombian state already has a duty to protect their rights and provide them with health and education. The law now provides them with these benefits, not as Colombian citizens, but as victims. MOVICE claims that the state ought to compensate the victims with additional benefits, not with statutory ones that it is legally obliged to provide anyway.

Finally, MOVICE states that the law fails to provide the victims with justice, a vital part of any true reconciliation process, since it contains no mechanisms for the investigation, legal process and punishment of the abuses committed.

Last week a prominent displaced leader and victim of forced displacement was killed in Medellin and threats were received by MOVICE members in Valle.

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